Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ

Question:

Dad has a bum shoulder the surgeon wants to "fix." He's lived this way just fine for 20 or more years. What good is this surgery going to do him except line the surgeon's pockets?

Answer:

With more and more older adults living longer, working longer, and remaining active longer, surgical repair of torn rotator cuff muscles is getting a second look. Instead of accepting a reduced quality of life due to pain, decreased motion, and loss of function, seniors are asking (even insisting) on equal treatment offered to younger patients. And studies are supporting the positive long-term benefits of this type of approach. Surgeons typically still advise patients with rotator cuff tears to seek conservative (nonoperative) care before thinking 'surgery.' But when a solid concerted effort under the supervision of a physical therapist doesn't yield the desired results, then surgery may really be the next best thing. Improved technology and surgical tools has led to an increased number of rotator cuff surgeries being done arthroscopically in all age groups. Shoulder stiffness is no longer much of a problem with arthroscopic procedures. Newer concepts in rotator cuff surgery include biologic augmentation of the repair. Graft material (either from a harvested tendon or grown in the lab from donor cells) is used to improve healing and support the repair site. This type of repair is especially helpful in older adults who have poor-quality rotator cuff tissue, osteoporosis, or other health issues that can impact healing (e.g., diabetes, heart disease). So, even though your father has managed to get along okay with rotator cuff surgery, it's possible that he has gotten used to a level of disability that isn't necessary. His surgeon may not be seeing a financial opportunity for him (or her) self as much as making available a means of improved quality of life for your father. If possible, go with your father to his next appointment and see what the surgeon's thinking is on this recommendation. If you live too far away, ask your father for permission to contact the surgeon by phone to ask questions and discuss your concerns. Claudius D. Jarrett, MD, and Christopher C. Schmidt, MD. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. September 2011. Vol. 36A. No. 9. Pp. 1541-1552.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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